Last week, I flew to Detroit to get a sneak peek at the 2024 Chevy Corvette E-Ray, the first hybrid Corvette and the first all-wheel-drive vehicle to wear the Corvette badge. Chevy says the E-Ray, which made its official debut today, is the quickest-accelerating Corvette in history, ripping from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and covering the quarter-mile in 10.5 seconds. But the hybrid Vette wasn’t designed to be a track monster. In fact, it’s basically intended to prevent people from wandering into a dealer and buying a Z06 they can’t really use.
That’s how Tadge Juechter describes it. Juechter’s official title is “global Corvette executive chief engineer;” to you and me, he’s the Corvette boss. The C8 is the fifth generation of Corvette to benefit from Juechter’s engineering work. He became chief Corvette engineer in 2006, with the C6. Just about everything you like about the C7, and everything that makes the C8 a world-beater, can be attributed to him.
Juechter is also a notorious straight-shooter, a bona-fide car guy with a refreshingly no-bullshit way of talking about performance cars. At the E-Ray preview event at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds, Juechter was characteristically unfiltered about where the E-Ray will fit in the Corvette lineup — and who he thinks should buy the hybrid, all-wheel-drive C8.
“Historically, as you moved up the Corvette line, you got to more and more extreme performance,” Juechter told me. “If you wanted to pay more for a Corvette, get a ‘better’ one, you always got pushed into the performance realm. So some of our well-heeled customers check all the boxes and end up driving a car on racing slicks, and they’re just driving back and forth to work, they never intend to go to the track. We only had that single stream, that single dimension to differentiate the cars. And it always put us in a little bit of a bind — we want to do a car that’s super capable on the track, but we don’t want to make it completely unlivable on the road. There’s a lot of compromises there.”
The answer, Juechter told me, was to split the top tier of the C8 lineup in two. “That way, Z06 could be mission-specific, more targeted to the track. It’s a pinnacle driving experience, but we make a lot of tradeoffs to get to that point,” he said.
“But there’s another market for people who want a more well-rounded car. They want similar levels of performance — they’re probably not going to go to the track, even though [the E-Ray] is perfectly track-capable.”
So the E-Ray gets the same aggressive widebody design as the Z06, but it rolls on all-season tires (or optional upgrade summer tires), not the Z06's super-sticky, short-lived track rubber. The E-Ray has carbon-ceramic brakes, which are great on a racetrack, but Juechter says they’re standard equipment because top-tier Corvette customers like them. “They look cool and they don’t generate brake dust,” he said.
For the kind of customer who walks into a Chevy dealer and says “I want the most expensive Corvette,” the E-Ray is basically the ideal package: Aggressive looks, all-wheel-drive predictability, and more road-friendly chassis tuning. Plus, with an MSRP starting at just over $104,000, nobody will accuse you of buying anything less than the flagship Vette.
Put another way, the E-Ray gives you the Z06 image without the Z06's track-focused compromises. “If you’ve got the money to spend, you love the widebody look, but don’t want to live with super high ride frequencies or those exotic tires, this is the machine for you,” Juechter told me. “Similar price point, the body styles are similar, but very different executions.”
I asked Juechter if he hopes more people will choose the E-Ray over the Z06. “I’m hoping the people who should be in this car end up in this car,” he said of the E-Ray. “What I don’t want to happen is for people to hear all this amazing stuff — the Z06, it’s the greatest car in the world! — and they really don’t understand what a pinnacle performance car is like. They get in, and it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, I thought they said this car rides smooth.’ It rides smooth for what it is, but you could get turned off of Corvettes by it. It’s not for everybody,” he said.”
“We want people to get the best fit for them,” Juechter continued. “We think there’s probably a lot of people who would be very happy with [the E-Ray]. There will be some people who still buy the Z06, because you can’t get the big carbon wing on this car. Some people, it’s all about peacocking. They’ll get that car. But at least we’re offering them a pretty rational choice.”